Behavior therapy refers to the application of learning principles to help people increase useful or decrease problematic behaviors to effectively achieve their valued goals. This entry begins with an overview of the foundations of behavior therapy—namely, classical and operant conditioning—and then describes several ways this type of therapy has been used in clinical contexts.

Behavior Therapy and Its Origins

Behavior therapy arose from two lines of basic research that were later applied to clinical problems that had not previously responded to the common therapies of the times. The first line of work identified what became known as classical conditioning; it was followed later by research on operant conditioning.

Classical Conditioning

Around 1901, Ivan Pavlov described classical conditioning resulting from his famous observations of dogs that salivated in response to ...

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